Yesterday I met with a couple of friends for happy hour, who also happen to be independent interior designers in Phoenix to talk about business. Now, this may seem a little strange since technically we are competitors and here we are sharing tips and asking for advice.
So I thought that I would start a new series, "The Business of Design" to share some of these questions that regularly come up for designers about the business of design. Today's post is mainly for design professionals and those thinking about turning pro. But if you are a design consumer and are interested in this behind-the-scenes look I am thrilled to have you.
Being an independent designer is a little lonely, when you work in an office with other professionals, you can turn to your colleague and ask for a second opinion. A luxury you don't realize until you are out there hitting the pavement alone. So a few of us decided to have happy hour once a month to discuss pricing, clients, contractors, and generally the business of design.
Since I started I have run my business on complete transparency. I am clear with my clients how much I charge and how much I pay for things. I also think that it is important for interior designers to support one another. My website is so open, that I regularly get emails or calls from other designers asking for business consulting so I spend a few minutes telling them what boils down into two very important fundamentals of design.
1. BE OPEN, BE HONEST, BE TRANSPARENT 2. BE CONFIDENT
Of course, these are my opinions, and my formula for success so take it as you will. But I believe that if you follow these two fundamentals, no matter how your business is structured or how you price your services, you can be successful.
Of the many lectures I've attended from the likes of Alexa Hampton, Tobi Fairley, Vicente Wolf, and Victoria Hagan as well as my personal experience working for Michael Smith, each of these designers follows my two fundamentals above, even if their business and pricing models are vastly different. So others use this formula for success too.
First, be open, be honest & be transparent. This is really simple. Client's don't like lies, deception, or magic tricks. I believe clients should know what you pay for items, I believe they should also know if you apply a mark-up and how much that is. You need a contact, you lay everything out in your contract and go through it with your clients. They should know what is expected of them and what they can expect from you. You can read my agreement here. You should let your clients know if their timeline is unreasonable or if their budget is too high or if you could save money on the sofa somehow. This is about trust.
Second, you must have confidence. No matter how you are pricing your services you need to be confident in your process. You are running a business, this is not a hobby. You deserve to make money to pay your bills and to have the lifestyle you desire. If you have confidence if does not matter what pricing structure you choose (read all about pricing structures here) as long as it follows the first fundamental. This is your business, not your clients, do not let them determine how you run it. Every time I have veered from my business procedures it has led to trouble.
There are a few great books that talk about the business of design that I have written about here.
So there you go, the most basic advice I would give to any other designer, be transparent & be confident.